El Niño Is Here

Adam and Deborah Silbar, part owners of Abuelita's Mexican restaurant, now also have a proprietary interest in a new baby boy. Benjamin Silbar, Abuelita's new honorary biznieto (great-grandson) was born Thursday, April 12, at Santa Monica Hospital. He'll be a big lad, weighing in at 7 pounds, 2 ounces, and measuring 21 inches at birth. Proud brother Cameron, age 5, rounds out the happy family.



In Memory of Shelby Dzilsky

April 29, 1938 - April 28, 2000

Shelby's daughter, Jonna, would appreciate hearing from friends who would like to reminisce about her dad. You can reach Jonna at (818) 507-5710


Gladys Etz, Topanga Pioneer, Passes

On two occasions Gladys saved her home from wildfires.

By Nancy Marcucella and Richard Lofland

Long time Canyon resident, Gladys Etz, 80 years young, died at her home in Topanga on February 6, 2001.

Gladys lived in Topanga Canyon for 58 years. A true pioneer, she lived through community well water issues and wildfires. On at least two occasions Gladys saved her home single-handedly from fires. She had a concrete building on the property in which she'd wait out the fires when she wasn't running around putting out the flames. The Messenger showed a front page photo of Gladys leading two horses out of the canyon to safety during the fire of 1948. She most likely went back into the fire area after the horses were safely secured.

She was a brave lady with a big heart and she was always ahead of her time. She knew all about vitamins and herbs and "cosmic" beliefs long before they became fashionable. She added heavily to our libraries with books on life and love, Edgar Cayce, feng shui and many other topics.

Gladys worked at Topanga Elementary School as a secretary where she loved the children, a mutual affection most assuredly. Even at age 80, she loved to watch Disney fairytales and had a huge collection of tapes she'd share with family and friends.

In younger years, Gladys sold Avon products on horseback, a decidedly Canyon endeavor.

Gladys was one of my first chiropractic patients in Topanga. She'd often bring beautiful flowers along with her sunny smile to my office. We shared many interests and became friends. She helped me through a few rough times with her wisdom and untiring ear. She was the "California" grandmother to my kids and never forgot a birthday, holiday or special occasion. She came often to my office over the past 12 years and I always felt she gave more to me than I could ever return.

Gladys dearly loved the Canyon and her home which she built with her husband, past Topanga fire chief, Bob Etz.

Gladys manifested the best possible attributes in a person-a wonderful mother, wife and dear friend. She believed in supporting the utmost potential in those around her and was always a positive, strong and compassionate force. She reminded us to cherish our dreams and helped us to make those dreams come true. She was ready to help through the hard times and give support when needed.

She will always be loved and appreciated very much by many and she will be greatly missed.

Gladys is survived by daughters, Penelope Lofland and her husband Richard of Fountain Hills, Arizona, Pamela Seabridge of Pomona, California, stepson David Etz and his wife Bonnie of Trinidad, CA, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.


A Cook's Tour: Marguerite's Amazing Life

Marguerite at her Topanga home with Dinah.

By Michele Johnson

Recently, Marguerite Cook, writer and world traveler, left her friends in Topanga for a new home up north. Marguerite, (Maggie to many), has Alzheimer's disease and will spend her 83rd birthday on April 13th at Sunrise Assisted Living, nestled in the redwoods near Oakland, California.

"I do have a horrible disease," said Maggie by phone from her new home, "but so far it hasn't hurt me at all." Though unable to live on her own, "She's still the Maggie we know and love for the most part," says her grandniece Shandy Cole, who visits her in her new digs twice a week. Shandy says she took great care to find "a beautiful place here in the hills," to remind Maggie of her old Topanga home.

Marguerite seems fairly content with her new living arrangements, and can still vividly remember much of her past. "I never had a dull life," she remarked with understatement. She made her mark both in Topanga, where she made many friends and wrote a brace of articles for the Messenger, and in much of the rest of the world as well. "My earliest memory of her is that this woman is amazing," said Shandy. As a child, Shandy would marvel over Maggie's African artifacts and "amazing stories."

"She was the most independent woman I know, especially for those years," Shandy says.


Maggie was born and raised in Iowa, one of four children in a prominent political family. After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1940 with majors in English and History, she became a reporter for the Des Moines County Register. Though she learned a lot on the job, she says she operated in the shadow of her "very famous" brother Spike, the Register's "star reporter."

Impatient with sitting on the sidelines during World War II, Maggie joined the WACs toward the end of the war. She was shipped overseas to Japan after the treaty was signed. There, she remembers, she had a free hand working for the Allied Press News Service, picking the stories she wanted to cover. "If you saw a story you wanted, someone would say, 'Are you interested?'-'Oh, yes.'" That was how she came to cover the war trials, watching many tragedies unfold.

After Japan, she traveled on to Vietnam and Thailand, where she spent over a year living and writing about the country. One experienced journalist told her she'd written "the best story he'd ever seen about Thailand."

"There's a great deal you can do in Southeast Asia," she added, and apparently, she did it all.

She also lived some time in Africa and in India. "I didn't like India, but I found it very interesting." In Turkey she was hired to chronicle the expedition of the U.S. government's "Caravan of Peace."

She lived abroad altogether for eight years, slowly working her way to London and a berth for home. Finally, in the early '50s, she made her way back to the United States, eventually drawn by old army friends to Hollywood.


She started a long-term relationship with one of those buddies, a former army correspondent named Gus Vingole, who eventually talked her into moving to Topanga with him.

By this time, she was working for the state's Employment Development Department, a job she held for over 30 years. She loved Topanga, and stayed on here even after Gus died, buying property and becoming a lovable landlady to several long-time Topangans. She never stopped writing.

Retirement from her government job did not mark the end of her adventures. At the age of 68, she joined the Peace Corps and was sent for two years to Swaziland. "She thought that was the greatest thing ever," said Shandy. "She worked with kids. She felt so useful there....She was an organizer, making things happen."

After she returned, she met Susan Ackerman, a younger woman who had also just done a tour with the Peace Corps. Susan was looking for a place to stay, and she remembers that Maggie said in her free-wheeling way, "'Sure, come on out. Check out the place,' and I never left." Susan stayed with her as a housekeeper, and, more recently, a companion, for 11 years.


After her return from the Peace Corps, Maggie began writing for the Messenger. "She was bringing stuff in for years," remembers former editor Colin Penno. "She was a delightful writer and a delightful person," he adds.

"I liked Marguerite, because even though she was old. . .she never dwelt on it. She was full of enthusiasm, never self-absorbed, childlike. . .a real inspiration, something to live up to." She continued to write under editor Lee Montgomery even joining her writing class. Her last story, "The Hard Luck House" written for the September, 1998, edition of the Messenger, told the saga of the twisted lives of those who lived in a Topanga home she'd almost bought. It was written, as were all her tales, in a highly personal, readable style. The pages of the Messenger will miss her prose, though she says she may be hard at work on another story soon.

Her condition was diagnosed in September, said Ackerman. But throughout it all, she remains "healthy as a horse," says Shandy. Her family remains devoted. One cousin is busy organizing and archiving all her writings, so that the family can keep and appreciate these treasures.

A home is being sought for Marguerite's long-time companion, her dog Dinah. She's a brown mutt, 8 years old, extremely bright, who loves people. Call the Messenger at 455-1303 if you know someone who can give her a permanent home.

Friends who want to contact Marguerite can write to her at Sunrise Assisted Living, #212, 11889 Skyline Boulevard, Oakland, California, 94619.


Richard's Home!

After six weeks of hospitalization, Richard Kelly is home convalescing from his recent liver transplant at UCLA. The long time Topanga resident and former co-caretaker of the Community House underwent difficult liver replacement surgery on February 5 after liver failure left him in a coma along with renal shutdown. Surgery placed an additional strain on his heart which became arrhythmic during the operation and Richard spent a total of 14 days in the Intensive Care Unit. It was a tough go, but he is now happily continuing his recovery period at home in Topanga with his wife, Lee.

The Kellys would like to extend their deep appreciation to all the members of the community who offered their support, especially those who made the extra effort to donate blood at UCLA in Richard's name. Richard continued to need blood transfusions for some time after the surgery, and with blood supplies in short supply, the selflessness of those who donated is very meaningful.

We would also like to thank the Woman's Club for their generosity and kindness to us. It is gratifying to us to see that old traditions of helpfulness have remained with this organization which was such a big part of our lives for so long. It is also heartwarming to realize that it has been handed on to capable, thoughtful, dedicated people.

Lee would like to thank Bonnie McCourt for picking up the pieces on the Messenger "Dateline," a difficult task to jump into at best; Michele Johnson for her understanding and the write-up in the February 8 Messenger issue; Mary Colvig and Ian Brodie for their generous caring assistance, and the rest of the Messenger staff for any way in which they might have been inconvenienced by Lee's absence.

Richard and Lee want to thank everybody for their cheering cards and phone calls. What a wonderful supportive community!

Again, Thank YOU!

-Richard & Lee

Click here for more on Richard Kelly


Top O' The Morning, Patrick

Topanga Christian Fellowship Church's pastor, Reverend Matthew Brayman, and his wife Stephanie are pleased to announce the birth of their first child, Patrick John Brayman. He was born on Wednesday, January 17 at 12:30 p.m., weighing a whopping 8 pounds, 6 ounces and measuring 20 inches. "He's healthy and cute as all get-out," said Matthew. "Stephanie's doing well," he added. "We're all doing well."

The Braymans live locally and recently announced their intention to stay with Topanga Christian Fellowship Church for at least the time being, though the congregation recently voted to remain an independent entity.


Ian, We Wish You Well

Ian Brodie, Messenger Publisher, recuperating.
Ian Brodie, the sophisticated, witty Brit who has been the Messenger's publisher and chief benefactor for the past 23 years, has suffered a stroke at his home in Washington, D.C.

He had just returned from five weeks in Tallahassee, Florida, where he had been reporting on the American election fiasco as Washington correspondent for the London Times.

As he e-mailed to his Messenger colleagues, he was "stricken out of the blue in the middle of the night" and credits his wife Bridget's quick action, calling in paramedics, with limiting the stroke's damage. He has already made strong improvement, and will enter an intensive rehab program soon in Washington.

Brodie, then West Coast correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph, became publisher of the Messenger in 1977. As former editor Colin Penno put it in The Topanga Story, "the boss introduced us to the magic of the percentage principle, wherein costs and revenue determine a healthy editorial/advertising ratio for each issue. The percentage principle, he patiently explained, was in common use around the world--except at the Messenger."

When Brodie transferred to the East Coast, he continued as publisher and mentor to the Messenger. He visits Topanga often, and is always available to help us address practical and ethical problems with his keen brand of common sense., the Messenger's web page, which has catapulted us into the 21st century, is his brainchild.

Ian and Bridget have two children--Louise, who graduated from Berkeley last year and Russell, who is attending California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland. Bridget is a medical association executive with the American College of Medical Quality.
Ian's friends are invited to address cards and letters to him care of, by fax at 455-1304 or by mail at POB 1106, Topanga, 90290.



Cody, Phyllis Persechini's best friend.

Cody was a good fellow,
A hail and hearty companion.
He had a fine run through this world.
I am a better person for knowing him.
And where he goes today,
I will one day follow.
Farewell Cody.
See you on the other side.


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